Recycling and Waste Diversion

Seven grizzly bears eating trash at Trout Creek dump, 1970
Trout Creek dump. Until 1970, garbage in Yellowstone was still considered food for bears. It has taken many decades to understand how our trash impacts the natural resources of the park, and to clean up our act.

NPS

The Yellowstone Environmental Coordinating Committee, We Recycle Montana (Yellowstone’s recycling contractor), and the West Yellowstone Compost Facility aggregate each organization’s solid waste statistics to determine the total amount diverted in Yellowstone annually. In 2017 park employees, visitors, and partners diverted about 60% of our waste through recycling and composting initiatives.

 
 
Pie chart of Yellowstone waste diversion rates.
In 2018, visitors and operations in Yellowstone National Park generated 4,117 tons of waste from paper, to batteries, to scrap steel.

Recycling

The recycling program in Yellowstone is expansive. It accepts glass, plastic, paper, aluminum, steel, cardboard, electronic items, batteries, and number of other automotive and commercial items. In 2016, park employees, visitors, and partners diverted approximately 48% of waste from the landfill through recycling and composting initiatives. Recycling of construction waste has been increased. Recycled plastic from Yellowstone is used in carpet backing through a partnership with the park’s recycling contractor and Universal Textiles and Signature Crypton Carpet.

 

Compost

A study done in 1994 showed that 60–75% of the solid waste generated in the park could be composted. The National Park Service worked with partners to build an industrial-grade composting facility near West Yellowstone. The facility began operating in July 2003. With the West Yellowstone compost facility operating at regular capacity, the park had been able to divert (compost and recycle) up to 60% of waste generated. Unfortunately, the wetmill at the facility is now broken and in 2015, Yellowstone concessioners switched to source separating compostable and non-compostable materials to aid the overall operation and maintain composting rates. 2017 showed an increase in compost generated. The compostable collection season was extended for hotels, restaurants and general stores.

 

Yellowstone National Park and its concession partners are striving to divert 75% of the solid waste produced in the park from landfills by 2020.

The YECC, Four Corners Recycling (Yellowstone’s recycling contractor), and the West Yellowstone Compost Facility aggregate each organization’s solid waste statistics to determine the total amount diverted in Yellowstone annually. In 2018 park employees, visitors, and partners diverted about 51.6% through recycling and composting initiatives.

 
 
Waste in Tons Recycled, Composted, and Sent to Landfills
Waste (tons) 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Recycling 1,510 1,988 1,891 1,705 1,580 1,404
Compost 694 458 388 331 685 722
Landfill 1,571 1,693 1,686 2,423 1,498 1,992
Total (Recycling, Compost, Trash) 3,775 4,140 3,965 4,458 3,763 4,117
Waste % Recycled, Composted, and Sent to Landfills
Waste (%) 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Recycling 40.0% 48.0% 47.7% 38.2% 42.0% 34.0%
Compost 18.4% 11.1% 9.8% 7.4% 18.2% 18.0%
Landfill 41.6% 40.9% 42.5% 54.4% 39.8% 48.0%
Total Diversion Rate 58.4% 59.1% 57.5% 45.7% 60.2% 51.6%
2018 Municipal Solid Waste in Pounds
Waste NPS Xanterra Delaware
North
YPSS Total Total (Tons)
Solid Waste from Dumpsters 3,976,680 -- 6,673 -- 3,983,353 1,992
Other Solid Waste -- -- -- -- -- --
Total Soild Waste -- -- -- -- 3,983,353 1,992
2018 Demolition, Renovation, and Construction Waste in Pounds
Waste NPS Xanterra Delaware
North
YPSS Total Total (Tons)
Class III: Light construction waste -- -- -- -- -- --
Class IV: Heavy construction waste -- -- -- -- -- --
Other 682,900 -- -- -- 682,900 341.25
Total Construction Waste 682,900 Not Reported Not Reported Not Reported 682,900 341.25
2018 Municipal Recycling in Pounds
Material NPS Xanterra Delaware
North
YPSS Total Total (Tons)
Aluminum, Tin, Mixed Cans 23,790 45,130 4,147 -- 73,067 36.53
Cardboard 154,660 401,125 170,696 -- 726,481 363.24
Glass 93,990 159,949 12,910 -- 266,849 133.42
Paper (Office, Newspaper, Slick) 49,740 72,610 Single stream -- 122,650 61.18
Plastics (#1 and #2) 43,710 62,180 10,020 -- 115,910 57.96
Propane / Isobutane Canisters Only stockpiled (none recycled) X X
Bear Spray Canisters 6,643 -- -- -- 6,643 3.32
Single Stream (DNC Alum., Plastic, Paper) -- -- 14,314 -- 14,314 7.16
2018 Operations Recycling in Pounds
Material NPS Xanterra Delaware
North
YPSS Total Total (Tons)
Antifreeze 1,852 3,162 -- 4,125 9,139 4.57
Batteries 7,050 5.767 414 760 13,991 7.00
Cooking Grease -- 28,177 -- -- 28,177 14.09
Electronics (incl. CD/DVD/Floppies) 6,451 10,997 other -- 17,428 8.71
Expired Medical Supplies -- -- -- -- -- --
Grass-cycling 64,000 -- -- -- 64,000 32.00
Lamps - Crushed Fluorescent Lights -- 1,996 -- 40 2,036 1.02
Linens and Textiles -- 48,070 1,392 -- 49,462 24.73
Mattresses -- 64,230 -- -- 64,230 32.12
Manure 134,120 380,000 -- -- 514,120 257.06
Oil Filters 6,300 750 -- 4,800 11,850 5.93
Oil Used 28,860 20,400 -- 8,000 57,260 28.63
Other: Xanterra’s lost and found, chairs, etc. 313 106,897 44,102 -- 151,312 75.66
Packaging for Retail Shipments—Xanterra -- 27,755 -- -- 27,755 13.88
Printer/Toner & Ink Cartridges 179 203 -- 65 447 0.22
Steel/Scrap Iron 148,097 56,940 5,544 9,250 219,831 109.92
Tires 24,000 120,000 -- 9,750 153,750 76.88
Wood Chips/Wood Pallets/Slash 300 62,625 34,349 -- 96,914 48.46
2018 Total Recycling in Pounds
NPS Xanterra Delaware
North
YPSS Total Total (Tons)
Total Recycling 794,055 1,678,582 297,888 36,790 2,807,316 1,403.66
 
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    Last updated: December 19, 2019

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